Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List is the historical account of Oskar Schindler and his heroic actions in the midst of the horrors of World War II Poland. Schindler’s List recounts the life of Oskar Schindler, and how he comes to Poland in search of material wealth but leaves having saved the lives of over 1100 Jews who would most certainly have perished. The novel focuses on how Schindler comes to the realization that concentration and forced labor camps are wrong, and that many people were dying through no fault of their own. This realization did not occur overnight, but gradually came to be as the business man in Oskar Schindler turned into the savior of the Jews that had brought him so much wealth. Schindler’s List is not just a biography of Oskar Schindler, but it is the story of how good can overcome evil and how charity can overcome greed.
Schindler’s List begins with the early life of Oskar Schindler. The novel describes his early family life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his adolescence in the newly created state of Czechoslovakia. It tells of his relationship with his father, and how his father left his mother. His mother is also described in great detail. Like many Germans in the south, she was a devout Catholic. She is described as being very troubled that her son would take after her estranged husband with his negligence of Catholicism. Oskar never forgave Hans, his father, for his abandonment of his mother , which is ironic considering that Oskar would do the same with his wife Emilie. In fact Hans and Oskar Schindler’s lives would become so much in parallel that the novel describes their relationship as “that of brothers separated by the accident of paternity.” Oskar’s relationship with Emilie is also described in detail as is their marriage. The heart of the novel begins in October 1939 when Oskar Schindler comes to the Polish city of Cracow. It has been six weeks since the German’s took the city, and Schindler sees great opportunity as any entrepreneur would. For Schindler, Cracow represents a place of unlimited possibilities because of the current economic disorder and cheap labor. Upon his arrival in Cracow he meets Itzak Stern, a Jewish bookkeeper. Schindler is very impressed with Stern because of his business prowess and his connections in the business community. Soon Schindler and Stern are on their way to the creation of a factory that would run on Jewish labor. Around this time, the persecution of the Jews of Poland begins with their forced relocation into ghettoes. This turns out to be timely for Schindler as now he is able to get very cheap labor. The next few years would go well for Schindler and his factory for they turned a great profit. In fact he made so much money that he is quoted as saying, “I’ve made more money than I could possibly spend in a lifetime.” His workers were also very happy. This is because “Schindler’s Jews” were treated as humans as opposed to being treated as animals. For them, working in Schindler’s factory was an escape from the ghetto and from much German cruelty. They loved Schindler so much that his factory became known as a haven throughout the Jewish community. However, things began to go sour for Schindler, when the Germans ordered the liquidation of the ghettoes. Soon all of the Jews in the Cracow ghetto were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp. By this time Schindler had grown so affectionate toward his Jewish workers that he refused to hire Poles, and instead sought of a way to keep using the Jews that he had grown so accustomed to. As the Cracow Jews were relocated to the Plaszow labor camp, Oskar Schindler came into direct dealings with the camp’s director, Amon Goeth. He did not like Amon, but he tried to get in on his best side in order to keep using his Jews in his factory. Amon agreed to let Schindler use them, and thus saving his Jews from some of the harshness of the Plaszow labor camp. As the war began to go badly for the Germans, they decided to accelerate their “final solution” by sending the Jews to more sinister concentration camps such as Auchwitz. This is when Oskar Schindler finally comes to the realization that he had the power to help his people. The now enlightened Schindler decides to use his entire fortune to buy the lives of the Schindlerjuden in order to save them from the gas chambers of Auchwitz. This is how Schindler’s list came to be. 1100 Jewish names that had in some way touched his life were put on a list and bought. His plan was to send the 1100 Jews to his newly created ammunitions factory in his native Czechoslovakia. However, Schindler’s plan does not go smoothly for an entire train load of his women were accidentally shipped to Auchwitz instead of to his factory. Schindler then uses more of his diminishing financial recourses to try to get his Jews out of Auchwitz. He succeeds in doing this, and thus the Schindlerjuden have escaped the worse. Meanwhile in Czechoslovakia his plan continues in that he tricks the Germans into thinking that they were going to produce quality ammunition, but instead not one good shell was ever produced to help the German army. Gratefully, within a few months Hitler was dead and the Germans were defeated. Unfortunately, Oskar Schindler was now penniless for he had given everything in order to save as many Jews as possible.
Thomas Keneally wrote Schindler’s List to be more than just the story of a man and his heroic deeds, but also to show today’s world of the dangers of hatred. He emphasizes this latter point through his descriptions of how cruelly the Nazis treated the Jews. Keneally also tries to point out how one man can make a difference as is the case with Oskar Schindler. However, perhaps Keneally’s greatest objective with Schindler’s List is that the world should never forget Oskar Schindler and what he did for the Jews as well as for mankind. Schindler’s impact is so great that even the numerical facts are astonishing. In fact if one compares the number of direct descendants of the Schindlerjuden to the number of Jews alive in Poland after 1945, it is evident that there are more Schindlerjuden today than the total number of Jews in 1945 Poland. This statistical fact shows how greatly Schindler, who died in 1974, will be missed. Perhaps Keneally shares the Schindlerjuden’s remorse for their savior by the way he ends his novel. Keneally ends the novel with the somber line, “He was mourned on every continent.”
Schindler’s List had a great effect on me personally. I thought that Thomas Keneally did an excellent job in making the reader feel the events of the time. Perhaps what I found to be most interesting in Schindler’s List is a question of morality. I began asking myself the question, would I be as heroic as Oskar Schindler if I were in his shoes? I think that this is exactly what Keneally wanted us to do; he wanted us to look at ourselves and analyze what’s inside. Historically, I find Schindler’s List to be very important not only because it is tells of a shameful time in western civilization, but also because the events that took place in the novel occurred only yesterday. After all fifty years is almost nothing in historical terms. Perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is this feeling that the events that transpired in Schindler’s List are in fact modern history.
Filed Under: History, World War 2 (WW2)
Schindler's List Essay
1473 Words6 Pages
Six million Jewish residents of Eastern Europe were exterminated during the Holocaust of the 1940’s. Families were taken out of their homes and put into ghettos, which were large prison type establishments that housed dozens of people in one small apartment. They were then separated from their families, "men to the left and women to the right", and were placed in concentration camps, where most of them were killed and cremated. In 1993, Steven Spielberg directed a film, Schindler’s List, which depicted the life of one man who risked his life and money to save the few Jewish families he could.
In the movie Schindler's List, the story of the Holocaust is told from a dual point of view; that of the Jewish people who are downtrodden,…show more content…
Thus, it can be concluded that in the beginning of the movie Schindler does not fully grasp the tragedy at hand, and consequently does nothing attempt to aid the Jews. Schindler's realizations of the horrors of the holocaust begin in one scene near the middle of the film. During this infamous turning point of the movie, Schindler, on top of a barren hill, traces the path of a young and helpless Jewish girl who wanders haphazardly through the streets of a devastated camp. Her lone image personalizes the slaughter. Schindler tries to track her progress as she invisibly makes her way, aimless and alone, past the madness and chaos in the street - a woman is machine-gunned behind her. He loses sight of the small figure as she walks behind a building, but then he glimpses her again, walking by a file of Jews being herded down a sidewalk. During the roundup, a German soldier fires at a single-file lineup of men, killing five with one bullet. Distressed and stricken by the nightmare below and the plight of the little girl in red, Schindler sees her entering one of the empty apartment buildings. There, she climbs the stairs and crawls under a bed for cover in a ransacked room. Her safety is only temporary, for later she will be hunted down and cold-heartedly murdered, forgotten to the world, destroyed by her own people.
This scene is the point at which Schindler becomes infuriated, and he asks himself why these things would happen, and